This is Anna - International women's day - Women of Ukraine
Every year on March 8th, International women's day takes place, highlighting women all over the world. This year, we want to honor women from Ukraine. Persheng met Anna, who's story we want to share with you during IWD.
Anna was born and raised in Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, located in the south-east of the country with c. 800 000 inhabitants. She came to Sweden in 2018 for work within the IT sector but has since 2020 transited to a full-time artist.
Can you tell us about your childhood in Zaporizhzhia?
I was born a few months before the fall of Soviet Union in 1991. The economy declined and my family was poor, so we had a difficult time. My family wanted me to have a better future, so they worked very hard to be able to afford letting me go to a private school to receive a better education. When it was time for university, only the best students with the highest grades could enroll for free. I knew that if I wanted to study, I needed to study very hard to get enrolled for free. I managed to get in with my grades and I studied my bachelor in my hometown and later my masters in Kiev.
What cultural aspects are you proud of as a Ukrainian?
People are so warm, and family comes first. I grew up in a building with many apartments, where all kids were playing together. If one of my relatives gets sick, we take shifts of being with them in the hospital, so that the person is never alone.
Please tell us about your move to Sweden!
Ukraine's economy started to grow thanks to countries such as the US who moved their IT operations to eastern Europe. They could pay higher salaries than Ukrainian companies, which gave me more financial freedom than before. Later, I got at a job at another IT company in Sweden and decided to move here. In Sweden I also met my husband and decided to stay.
Today, you work as an artist full-time, what made you go from working within IT to art?
I have for many years painted as a hobby, so it was natural. Previously in life, I've been so focused on how to become financially independent and having a successful career. Even though I was paid a high salary, I became more and more unhappy, which resulted in stress and tension in my body and later a depression. My depression was my turning point, and I realized that I can no longer ignore my intuition, I want and need to focus on my art instead.
It's so inspiring to hear that you listened to your own voice and took the step of becoming a full-time artist! Can you tell us more about your art?
I'm a spiritual person and I meditate a lot. Through my meditations, I can feel what message and energy I want to communicate in my paintings. I like to paint powerful women that are thriving and inspire others to be who they are. One of my collectors who was depressed said that when she looks at her painting, she gains so much energy. I feel that it’s my calling in life to spread this energy forward.
Amazing, it’s so inspiring to hear! Regarding Ukraine, is your family there or have they left the country?
My parents are still in Zaporizhzhia. Since men aren't allowed to leave the country, my mom doesn't want to leave my dad alone. Some relatives took the train to go to western Ukraine and evacuate. What people maybe don't realize, is that it can for some people feel scarier to leave, because then you don’t know the language, it’s uncertain where you will go etc. Money can be an obstacle too. My family has lived in Ukraine their whole life - it’s their home. It’s difficult to leave it behind.
So, for some people it might even be scarier to leave than to stay, even if you don’t know how the war will develop?
Yes. I believe people are staying for two reasons. One of them is that it’s too scary to leave. The other reason is that they want to fight back and defend our country.
What is your view on the whole situation?
I know this won't create world peace, but if everyone started to work within themselves, broaden their perspective and don't project their anger and scars on the outside, it would be better. We will all die one day, and you decide how your life is going to be.
Very interesting reflection, thanks for sharing. Finale question, how can other countries support Ukraine in this situation?
Any kind of support is good support. Spreading awareness, financial support, supporting animal shelters etc.
Together with UN Women Sweden, we want to make a difference. As usual, we give 100 SEK per sold bag to UN Women Sweden. During March, we will donate this amount directly to women and children who stay or escape from Ukraine.
Solidarity with Ukraine